ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services (NHS) Dr Zafar Mirza on Thursday said the recent up to 400pc increase in prices of medicines would be capped at 75pc.
“Though prices of medicines were increased by up to 400pc the day I took charge [April 23] Prime Minister Imran Khan directed reduction in the prices within 72 hours. I started deliberations and finally it has been agreed that the maximum increase in the prices would be 75pc,” he told a press conference.
Dr Mirza said prices of 889 medicines were considered out of which prices of 464 were increased and that of 395 brought down while the others remained unchanged.
“The 464 medicines, whose prices were increased, were frequently used so it drew criticism. Moreover, prices of all medicines went up by another 15pc due to devaluation of the rupee.”
Patients will now get a benefit of Rs10 billion in terms of savings on purchase of drugs whose prices went up by 400pc recently
He said as prices of 464 medicines were increased under hardship cases on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, companies were contacted for negotiations.
If a company claims that manufacturing of a drug is not viable due to the increase in the cost, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) can increase its price to ensure availability of the drug. Such cases are called hardship cases.
Dr Mirza claimed that prices of medicines which had been increased by 50pc to 75pc would also be reduced by 9pc. He said prices of medicines would be made affordable for the common people.
“Moreover, reduction in prices of 395 drugs notified vide SRO dated 31-12-2018 will be implemented in letter and spirit since the Sindh High Court has disposed of petitions filed by pharmaceutical companies,” he said.
He gave an example of Ferrous Sulphate tablets which was available for Rs64.28 per 1,000 tablets and whose price went up to Rs218 (239pc). Now it will be reduced to Rs112.49 for 1,000 tablets, he added.
“Another example is the price of Solu-Cortef 100mg injection [steroids] which was available at Rs86. After the 178pc increase, its price reached Rs238.71. By limiting the increase to 75pc, this drug will now be available at Rs150.50.”
Because of these steps, patients will directly get a benefit of about Rs10 billion in terms of savings on the purchase of drugs, Dr Mirza said.
He said companies which had not reduced prices of 395 drugs after a notification of their prices would be prosecuted in the drug courts.
He said a mechanism was being evolved to channelise the recovered amount to Pakistan Baitul Maal to purchase medicines for patients suffering from terminal diseases.
“To provide a long-term solution we are introducing a national medicine policy that will ensure access to essential medicines by the citizens at affordable prices.”
Dr Mirza said major reforms were being introduced in the working of his ministry and he would share his 100-day progress with the nation.
An official of the Ministry of NHS told Dawn that out of the 464 medicines the prices of 360 had been increased by up to 50pc, that of 52 by 50pc to 77pc and prices of only 52 medicines were increased over 75pc.
“The ministry should hold an audit to ascertain the prices of raw materials at the international market. Some companies are involved in the flight of capital through over-invoicing. As a result, the country is losing foreign exchange,” he alleged.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2019